I have to preface this by admitting that I live in a short city. Our skyscrapers now pass 50 stories, but for a long time we were around 30 stories and those buildings were rare. I cannot recall a time I rode an elevator above eight stories in Austin, so I’m not an elevator expert. With that in mind, I have to wonder where is the innovation in elevators? I rode an express elevator in Chicago that only stopped at the top floor or bottom floor. That’s a start, but what about the other 90 floors?

There’s a Vertical Transportation Handbook that details the theory behind elevators and optimum stop values, but I couldn’t find anything as innovative as the train that never stops.

The train that never stops could probably be adapted to vertical transportation, but I’m not excited about beta testing that one :)

We could borrow ideas from public transportation and have long-haul elevators that stop infrequently (like a train) then people move to a secondary elevator for shorter rides (like a bus). For example, let’s say you want to get to the 19th floor. You’d hop in the elevator, press [your desired floor/10] 2 then zip up to the 20th floor. From there you walk down a flight of stairs or take an elevator that only goes from 15 to 25.

Another idea is to stop at half floors. Want to go to 20? Get off at 19.5 and walk up a ramp (ADA compliant, woot!). This would eliminate half the stops without sacrificing convenience. This is more convenient than schemes that stop at only odd or even number floors.

How about elevators that open on multiple sides? You could then put elevators in the middle of a building and let people exit, for example, to the east or west.

I’d love to have slides and fireman poles for quick descents, but that doesn’t solve the ascent issue…

So, what am I missing? Are there better ideas out there? How are people traversing vertical cities these days?


There’s a PBS Nova on elevators! Thanks for the link :)


Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.